Heard and Understood: Q&A with Mentor Molly Haleblian

As iMentor celebrates National Mentoring Month this January, we want to express our utmost gratitude to the thousands of mentors across the U.S. who are supporting iMentor students. In a particularly challenging time for everyone, mentors have been there to boost, cheer, and encourage students, who are among those most affected by the pandemic.

Join us on January 22, 1-1:30pm EST, as two mentors, Molly Haleblian from Chicago and Sherman Reid from New York City, lead “Mentoring Matters,” a conversation about their mentoring journeys, on Facebook Live. We recently caught up with Molly, who been a mentor for two years, to learn more about her volunteer experience.

What motivates you to be a mentor?

Growing up, I was surrounded by adults and teachers who became my advocates and friends. Looking back, I realize how extremely fortunate I was to have those positive figures throughout my life cheering me on. Now knowing that this is not a shared experience motivates me to put myself out there and become an advocate and cheerleader for my mentee. The goal is to not only help my mentee as she navigates her post-high school path, but to make sure my mentee is heard and understood. This is what every student deserves.

Tell us about your mentee. How do you think you’ve influenced her, and how do you think she has influenced you?

My mentee, Leena, is resilient and has an insane amount of grit. When we first met, Leena was reserved and cautious. I am a very open person and wanted to learn everything about Leena. I think this caught her off-guard and she was protective of the information she divulged. I believe my openness and continuous interest in Leena influenced her to build a relationship of trust with me. I continue to learn from Leena. She influences me to not take anything at face value and shows me that determination can take you far.

Covid-19 has brought such challenge and hardship to so many people. What has mentoring during the pandemic been like for you?

Mentoring during a pandemic has not been easy. It has taught me how to get creative in my communication and support. Leena is in her first year at college and it is hard to understand what it is like to be a college student right now without being in that position. This is a huge year for all collegiate freshmen and one that none of us could have fully prepared for. There's an emotional component too that I would be remiss to not address. Ultimately, my approach remains the same. Listen. Ask questions. Continue to be the person that she can lean on to vent and collaborate with.

What have you discovered is an unexpected reward of being a mentor?

An unexpected reward for me is that my relationship with my mentee became so much more than planning for life after high school. It became a friendship. Leena and I have had conversations about life that I would have never expected to have with her. Learning about her upbringing and her needs pushed me to look inward and question what is important in life. I am always grateful that iMentor brought the two of us together.

Watch this video about how the pandemic has affected iMentor students Brianna and Naz and the students in a Bronx, NY high school. Learn about iMentor's Collective Response Fund.